February is upon us in the Alamo City, and that means it is time for the San Antonio Spurs to pack their bags, head out of town on their annual Rodeo Road Trip, and make room at the AT&T Center for the iconic San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. For two weeks each year, the basketball arena morphs into a dirt covered rodeo arena where some of the world’s best professional rodeo athletes will compete en route to the national championships in Las Vegas. This HUGE event is filled with all things rodeo and agriculture and is beyond fun! We have put together a complete guide to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo to help you navigate all of the activities, entertainment, animals, and food. Let’s Rodeo, San Antonio!
What is the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo?
The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo (known colloquially as “the rodeo”) is a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo competition that is held each February in San Antonio, TX, at the AT&T Center arena. The rodeo is one of the biggest single events held in San Antonio each year, second only to Fiesta, with more than 1.5 million visitors in attendance over the two weeks that it occurs.
During the daytime, the fairgrounds around the AT&T Center are open to the public and offer a variety of family-friendly activities including an expo hall, carnival rides, food stalls, shopping, a livestock show with multiple competitions (including the junior livestock show which is the largest in the nation), and much more. At night, the doors to the arena are opened and guests are welcomed in for an evening of elite, pro-rodeo action and entertainment, followed by a concert from an internationally recognized artist or band.
The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is a true community event with the goal of strengthening the educational and agricultural aspirations of the youth of Texas. 6,000 volunteers pitch in each year to make the rodeo happen and through the generous donations of scholarships, grants, and endowments, coupled with the funds raised from ticket sales and the livestock auctions, the rodeo is able to reach more than 19,000 young people with a very successful scholarship program.
Photo Credit: Amy Liddell
When was the first San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo?
From its inception, San Antonio was a cattle town with a strong agricultural bent. In 1854, the very first Agricultural Fair held in Texas was hosted in San Antonio where it struggled under inadequate facilities. Over the years, more fairs and expos visited San Antonio and experienced the same lack of appropriate facilities.
Then, in 1948, Joe Freeman, a San Antonio native with an interest in promoting the growth of agriculture, erected the Joe and Harry Freeman Coliseum and hosted the very first San Antonio Stock Show the following year. In February 1950, a rodeo was added and the official San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was born. In 2003, the rodeo made the move to a brand new venue, the AT&T Center, next door to the Freeman Coliseum where it can host 18,000+ spectators each night.
What is there to do during the rodeo?
There are a number of events, activities, and entertainment options scheduled over the course of the rodeo that a guest can take part in. A few highlights include:
-BBQ Cookoff and Festival
-Livestock and Junior Livestock Show
-Expo Hall with 150+ Vendors
-Pro-rodeo Competitions – Including fan favorites like bull riding, barrel racing, and bronc riding.
-Arena Concerts – Check out this year’s lineup.
Given the sheer number of events held during the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, we cannot list everything, but a comprehensive calendar can be found by clicking here. Needless to say, boredom won’t be a problem, but getting to do everything that is available might just be.
What can I expect at the rodeo?
Besides the obvious (animals, cowboys, food, rides, and music), there are a few extra things that, if you know to expect them, will improve your overall experience.
First, and perhaps foremost, are the crowds. The rodeo is one of San Antonio’s most popular events and is very well attended. Expect lots of people – that means lines and congestion. Plan to leave a little extra time for all the things you want/have to do. Parking, walking, navigating, shopping, etc. Scheduling yourself with no margin for the events you really want to see will only result in stress and frustration, and the possibility of a missed experience. 20-30 extra minutes will go a LONG way here.
Not all of the events happen at the same time or even every day, so do your homework. Do you really want to see the Mutton Bustin’? Is there a lecture or educational event you want to listen to? Are there must-do rides at the carnival for you and your family? Take a look at the daily calendar and make note of dates/times for the things you really want to see and try to schedule around them. Prep is key.
Like all venues, the AT&T Center has a few specific policies that could catch you off guard if you aren’t expecting them. For example, the venue is completely cashless. While the fairground vendors outside are able to accept cash, once you are inside, you will not be able to pay for concessions or merch without having a credit or debit card on hand.
If you are planning on bringing a bag or purse into the AT&T Center, they have a rigid size requirement. Bags can be no bigger than 12’ x 12’ x 6’. And in our experience, this is strictly enforced – like “we don’t care if you have to hike all the way back to your car in order to leave your oversized bag there” strict. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have the right-sized bag before trying to enter.
Finally, expect there to be a lot of ticket options. This can prove very confusing since certain tickets are for one thing and one thing only, while other tickets include multiple events or attendance options. Here’s a brief rundown of your choices:
Rodeo and Concert Tickets
These tickets give you access to a reserved seat for one night of rodeo competition and the concert that follows. Access to the fairgrounds is included. These tickets start at $30.
Rodeo Season Tickets
These tickets give you access to a reserved seat in the same location for each of the 22 rodeo performances. Access to the fairgrounds is included. These tickets start at $660.
Rodeo Playoff Packages
These tickets give you access to a reserved seat in the same location for the final 4 rodeo events including the Semi-Finals, Wildcard, and Finals. Access to the fairgrounds is included. These tickets are $132.
These tickets give you one full day with unlimited access to carnival rides. Access to the fairgrounds is included, however, access to the nightly rodeo/concert is NOT included. These tickets are $25. If you aren’t interested in unlimited rides, individual rides can be purchased on-site by cash or credit card.
These tickets give you one full day with unlimited access to the fairgrounds, stockyards, expo halls, and food vendors. Access to the carnival is included, but rides and games must be purchased separately. These tickets range from $5-$10.
Each year, the rodeo offers a few $2 Days where admission is $2, carnival rides are $2, and select food purchases are $2. To see which days are included this year, click here.
All rodeo tickets can be purchased through the SA Rodeo’s website via Ticketmaster by clicking here.
Where can I park at the rodeo?
Parking may be the single biggest headache when it comes to visiting the rodeo as many of the AT&T Center lots get taken over by rodeo activities, severely limiting the available parking. Four main lots (black, red, gold, and blue) will be open during the rodeo which range in price from $10-$25. Parking is available at the gate for three of the lots (red, gold, and blue), and is on a first-come, first served basis.
We HIGHLY recommend purchasing a parking pass in advance online for either the red or blue lots in order to guarantee an available spot. The blue lot (our recommendation), while farthest away from the rodeo facilities, is the cheapest lot and they offer an express shuttle that runs continuously to the rodeo. A map of the parking lots can be found by clicking here. To purchase an advance parking pass, click here.
What should I wear to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo?
There are two things to consider when picking out the perfect rodeo threads – the weather and your commitment to dressing the part. Februarys in San Antonio can range anywhere from balmy (70-80 degrees and sunny) to absolutely bitter (we're looking at you, Winter Storm Uri). Keep an eye on the forecast and dress accordingly in layers as necessary. When inside the AT&T Center, it can be chilly (even on warmer days), so it’s always best to have at least a light jacket or sweater on hand.
For those who are looking for the immersive rodeo wardrobe experience, we have three words for you: hat, boots, and denim. Full stop. Obviously, the cowboy hat is the ONE AND ONLY choice for headgear at the SA rodeo. But given that there are actually a wide variety of cowboy hats, we suggest taking some time and educating yourself about what you like and what suits you best. The Cattleman, the most traditional style of cowboy hat with a center crease and two creases on the side, is a great place to start. You can check out a comprehensive guide to cowboy hats by clicking here.
Boots are the go-to footwear for those going all-in on rodeo apparel. And the good news is that with boots, just about anything goes (with the one exception being high-heeled boots - not only do they not fit the theme, but they are a hazard when walking around the fairgrounds). Find a pair of boots that is comfortable and suits your personality and sense of style. You will see it all at the rodeo from traditional western leather to tall buckaroos to fully bedazzled dress boots. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your footwear.
For tops and bottoms, denim and fringe are your friends. Jeans are essential, with both men and women sporting their favorite pairs of form-fitting denim (no baggy or saggy jeans here). Feel free to pair a denim top or jacket with your jeans as well – at the rodeo, you can’t have too much denim. And while fringe has largely fallen out of grace from the wider world of fashion, the rodeo is the one place you can work it without issue. We promise, your fringe will be lauded here instead of judged.
If Western wear is not your thing, that is perfectly okay too. You can dress however you want to at the rodeo. Just keep it casual and comfortable. Nobody wants to be walking around dusty stockyards in high heels and a miniskirt. A sturdy pair of tennis shoes, comfortable pants, and a fashionable top is more than acceptable.
Protip: No matter what you wear, we recommend having a pair of sunglasses on hand. The fairgrounds, stockyards, and rodeo arenas can get dusty, and wearing sunglasses can help protect your eyes from pesky dust particles that could ruin your rodeo experience.
Photo Credit: Amy Liddell
What time does the Rodeo and Stock Show begin?
The fairgrounds are open each day from 8am to 11pm. The shopping and attractions open at 10am and close at 8pm Sundays-Thursdays, and 9pm on Fridays-Saturdays.
The carnival is open during the weekdays from 4pm to 11pm and on the weekends from 10am to 12am. Times may differ on holidays.
Doors to the rodeo open each night approximately 90 minutes before the scheduled performance (start times will be indicated on your tickets). Concerts usually begin shortly after the conclusion of each night’s rodeo competition and while it varies evening to evening, on average, the concerts start around 9pm, though this isn’t a guarantee.
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